|Blanco's two diving catches (including this one) were only two of the Giants' many great defensive plays. (US Presswire)|
SAN FRANCISCO -- The main stories we're sure to hear about in Game 1 of the 2012 World Series will be -- in some order -- Pablo Sandoval's historic three-homer game, the excellent pitching from Barry Zito and Tim Lincecum and Justin Verlander getting knocked around. And those are definitely the top three stories that emerged. Just don't ignore the leather that the Giants flashed all game, because they put on a defensive clinic.
Whether it was Gregor Blanco making a diving catch, Brandon Crawford showing his brilliant range, Buster Posey nearly single-handedly pulling off a heads-up double play or Blanco again making a spectacular diving stab, the defense was on display throughout.
"I think we've been playing real good defense," Crawford would say afterward. "It's been one of our keys to success lately in the playoffs and we've been taking away a lot of runs."
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Yes they have. Blanco's diving catch in the third inning prevented a situation with two runners on and Prince Fielder coming to the plate. In the sixth inning, Blanco robbed Fielder, and this came with two men on base and only one out. Had that ball dropped in, Zito would have been on the ropes with the tying run on deck. Instead, a possible rally had essentially been averted.
Just having those kinds of plays behind them gave the Giants pitchers an extra boost of confidence, too.
Yeah, it is [a boost of confidence for pitchers]," starter Ryan Vogelsong said. "It definitely encourages you to pound the strike zone, to make them put the ball in play."
"We're playing great defense, which helps the pitchers to challenge guys, execute their pitches and not try to do too much," reliever Jeremy Affeldt added.
Of all the sparkling plays Wednesday night, Posey's alert grab of a tapper from Delmon Young was perhaps the best. He immediately picked up the ball, tagged Young out and fired a strike to second base, where Prince Fielder -- after a leadoff single in the fourth -- was dead to rights.
"Buster, obviously, is great behind the plate." Vogelsong said, though he wanted to give everyone credit.
"Certain guys on our team get a lot more recognition for their defense than others, but all of our guys play great defense," said Vogelsong. "I feel like 'Panda' [Pablo Sandoval] plays a real good third base and doesn't get much credit for it. Brandon [Crawford]'s starting to show his skills at a national level, [Brandon] Belt's great, Marco [Scutaro] … you know. And we basically have two center fielders playing center and left. And Hunter [Pence], he doesn't look as clean as the other two, but he gets to the ball and he's made some big plays for us this postseason."
On the heels of such a superb defensive effort, that's pretty well said. But it can probably be said a bit more succinctly.
"I feel very proud of our defense," said Blanco with a well-earned smile.
And though it wasn't the biggest story of the night, do not discount the role of San Francisco's glovework in gaining a 1-0 advantage in the World Series.